florida manatee festival crystal river

Florida Manatee Festival Returns to Downtown Crystal River for the 36th Year

By Guest Author Posted on December 21, 2022

The Florida Manatee Festival returns for its 36th year to downtown Crystal River, the manatee capital of the world, on Saturday and Sunday, January 14 and 15! Presented by The Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, we are pleased to welcome Bailey Electric & Signs as our presenting sponsor for the second year in a row.

The Florida Manatee Festival is consistently rated by attendees as one of the best outdoor events in Citrus County! This popular festival celebrates all things manatee, and offers visitors a large food court, guided kayak tours, manatee boat tours, live music on multiple stages, a hippie village, beer and wine garden, and children’s activities located throughout the festival for a $5 admission, with free admission for ages 12 and under!

florida manatee festival food court
A wide variety of foods are offered at the Florida Manatee Festival Food Court. Image courtesy of Citrus County Chamber of Commerce.

With a wide selection of delicious cuisine choices, the Florida Manatee Festival is pleased to offer a tasty selection of delectable delights at the food court right near the main stage in Kings Bay Park along with a beer and wine garden.

Guided Kayak Tours and Manatee Boat Tours

Back this year, guided kayak tours will be offered at the festival for a nominal fee with Hunter Springs Kayaks! Tour guides will take you on a 1-hour tour of the bay and Hunter Springs area, giving a firsthand glance at the beauty of our Nature Coast.

Don’t forget to schedule your guided kayak tour of Crystal River by Hunter Springs Kayaks or your Manatee Boat Tour by a Manatee Eco Tourism Association guide at the 2023 Florida Manatee Festival. Image courtesy of Citrus County Chamber of Commerce.

Also returning are manatee boat tours! Participating local guides with the Manatee Eco Tourism Association (M.E.T.A.) will take you to their favorite manatee watch spots for a chance to see our favorite floating friends up close – without getting in the water! Boat tours can be purchased at the festival for only $10 for adults, $5 children aged 6 -12, and free for children 5 and under.

Free Admission and Transportation to Three Sisters Springs and Crystal River Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center Included

Free transportation and admission to Three Sisters Springs and the new Friends of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge visitor’s center will also be included in your festival entry! Buses will be picking up and dropping off from the gate at 5th street from 9AM – 3:30PM both days.

manatees in three sisters springs
World-famous Three Sisters Springs is the perfect setting to view the majestic manatee in its natural environment without getting your feet wet! Image by Sally White.

World-famous Three Sisters Springs is the perfect setting to view the majestic manatee in its natural environment without getting your feet wet! Hundreds of manatees flock to the springs every year during Manatee Season (November 15 – March 31) as refuge from the cold, utilizing the springs’ consistent 72-degree waters to regulate their body temperature at a healthy level. For an in-depth look at the Crystal River Wildlife Refuge Center, click here.

Great live music is a part of the Florida Manatee Festival. Two stages for two days with locally and nationally acclaimed bands. Image courtesy of Citrus County Chamber of Commerce.

Music and More Entertainment on Multiple Stages throughout the Manatee Festival

Musical entertainment will be ongoing both days from two stages. The Main Stage at Kings Bay Park will feature music all weekend long opening Saturday with the Bob Hope Band and nationally acclaimed Fleetwood Mac cover band, Fleetwood Max, headlining. Sunday’s mainstage entertainment includes Moonflower providing an incredible lineup tributing Grand Funk Railroad from 1PM-2PM transitioning to their famous Santana tribute from 2:30PM-4PM.

Additional entertainment can be found in Hippie Village at Heritage House on Citrus Avenue including Magic Andy, back by popular demand, on Saturday at 11AM and Sunday at 2PM.

entertainment at florida manatee festival
Additional stages feature live entertainment throughout the festival. Image courtesy of Citrus County Chamber of Commerce.

The newest stage will be located at the recently renovated Pumphouse and Splashpad adjacent to Town Square with local favorite JoJo Jones and Jay on Saturday from 12:30PM – 2:30PM and powerhouse performer Gypsy Sparrow on Sunday from 11AM-1PM. A full lineup with days and times can be found here, with updates made as the entertainment is booked!

Find Your Perfect Souvenir from Manatee Festival’s 100s of Fine Art, Craft, Commercial & NonProfit Vendors

Additionally, a vast array of fine art, craft, commercial and non-profit vendors will line the streets on both the north and south sides of downtown.  “Art in the Park” will be held in Crystal River’s beautiful Town Square, offering the perfect setting to browse and purchase an original piece of art for your home, business or as a wearable piece of jewelry that will be a treasure of special meaning forever.

2023 florida manatee festival
You never know where you will find the roaming manatee at the Florida Manatee Festival in Crystal River. Image courtesy of Citrus County Chamber of Commerce.

Kids Zones, Beer & Wine Gardens are throughout the Florida Manatee Festival

For the kiddos, a Kids Zone and fun activities will span throughout the festival. Some of the activities the Florida Manatee festival has been known to host includes inflatables, face painting, a human catapult, human waterwheel, carnival food and more!

For the adults, there will be more food, along with beer and wine gardens near the main music stage and throughout the festival.  With something to please everyone, the 36th Annual Florida Manatee Festival is the place to go!

For more information: www.GoManateeFest.com, www.facebook.com/FloridaManateeFestival, or 352-795-3149.

visiting manatees at the florida manatee festival
Manatees are the start of the Florida Manatee Festival. Be sure to come to the 36th Annual Florida Manatee Festival Jan. 14 or 15, 2023. Image courtesy of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce.

All about the 36th Annual Florida Manatee Festival at-a-Glance

  • What: 36th Annual Florida Manatee Festival
  • When: Saturday, Jan. 14, 9 am – 5 pm; and Sunday, Jan. 15, 9 am – 4 pm
  • Cost: $5 per person, age 12 and under free
  • Where: Downtown Crystal River, at the intersection of Citrus Avenue and U.S. 19, stretching up through the shops and restaurants of Heritage Village and surrounding areas, down to the waterside area along Kings Bay.
  • Parking: Free parking at the former Crystal River Mall at 1801 NW U.S. 19 (approximately one mile north of the event) with free shuttle buses to the event. Handicap accessible buses will be available for transportation.
  • Boat Tours: Local boat captains will offer boat tours on a first-come basis. Tickets are available on site for $10 for adults; $5 for children 6 – 12 years old; and children 5 and under free. The tickets are good only on the date purchased and are sold at the boat dock area near northwest Third Street (Kings Bay Park).
  • Guided Kayak Tours: Local guides will take you on a 1-hour guided kayak tours of the bay with Hunter Springs Kayaks. Advanced reservations will be available on the website soon.

Event website: www.gomanateefest.com or www.facebook.com/FloridaManateeFestival
Chamber phone: 352-795-3149



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